ITMO’s Technopark Resident MerkleBot Receives an Award

02.03.2020

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The MerkleBot international project was founded by professors from ITMO University and Boston University, the USA. With its staff members coming both from Russia and the US, the company has now been honored at the world’s largest developer conference two years in a row. This year, MerkleBot presented a solution that won the DEVIES Award in Robotics.

A Silicon Valley conference

DeveloperWeek, the world’s largest developer and engineering conference, took place in San Francisco on February 12-16. Over 8,000 developer teams from 70 countries annually attend this major event.

The program is packed with workshops and seminars, as well as opportunities to communicate with colleagues and investors. Moreover, the participants can present their solutions in one of the categories of the DEVIES Award competition.

In 2020, MerkleBot, an ITMO’s Technopark resident, won the DEVIES Award in the category Robotics. The company itself was founded as a collaboration between Russian and Boston developers. Three MerkleBot staff members are now at work in the US, while St. Petersburg and Tolyatti in Russia host the company’s back office.

Robots for small to medium manufacturers

At this year’s DeveloperWeek, MerkleBot introduced a smart leasing solution for medium and small businesses. It is a technology that connects to hardware and collects information about its maintenance level and conditions of service. It can then send this information to every party to the leasing contract: the entrepreneur, the bank and the service companies, who can provide their professional opinion on the hardware in question.

This solution can help the parties to the contract calculate and assess the risks, and determine the production margin. For banks, this is a way to be sure of the company they provide services to, and for companies it is an opportunity to introduce a dynamic interest rate so as to avoid going in the red during the low season.

Moreover, it is hard for small and medium industries to get access to leasing services. Banks are usually unable to precisely assess a certain equipment utilization model to tell whether it is going to be profitable. The businesses, in their turn, generally cannot afford to install expensive automatic quality control systems or hire a service company professional. These factors combined often make it impossible for a leasing contract to be arranged.

“We’ve created a small device that, after additional integration and user interface setup, can gather information about hardware maintenance. Specifically, the data that is important to both parties to the contract. Our product can help build a transparent control system for the parties, so that small businesses can now get a greater chance at settling a leasing deal, while banks will face fewer risks as they back it,” says Aleksandr Kapitonov, the MerkleBot co-founder and an associate professor at ITMO’s Faculty of Control Systems and Robotics.

Aleskandr noted that the presented technology can also monitor other ongoing processes at a production site, such as CO2 emission levels. For instance, the world-renowned Tesla is often praised for how their cars can cut down on CO2 emissions. Thus, any additional information can potentially be beneficial, as it can both highlight previously unknown advantages over competitors and notify the manufacturer about any problems that need to be handled.

MerkleBot partnered up with TechStars, a major American start-up accelerator, who took interest in the new technology. The only issue MerkleBot is yet to solve is providing technical expertise, as highly competent specialists are few and banks themselves cannot truly assess manufacturing processes. The company is now entering the negotiations and unit sales stage, and intends to further broaden their retail with support from TechStars.

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